Preserving Your Water Softener Brine Tank

Hard water is known to contain higher than normal levels of calcium and magnesium.  This causes issues with lime scale build up that interferes with household and daily functions.  Issues range from clogged plumbing to soap’s ability to clean properly.  For most homeowners the installation of a water softener system is vital in bringing higher quality water to the household.  Most water softening units will continue to function for years with little maintenance.  Regular check ups and cleaning does help to improve their lifespan.

One important aspect in maintaining your water softening equipment is caring for the systems brine tank.  In order to properly maintain the tank, the salt levels should be checked and if low replaced on a monthly basis. Salt is essential in the ion exchange process that takes place in water softeners.  As the system regenerates the hard water will flow through resin in the softener and the hard ions trade place with the soft ions on the resin beads.  This creates soft water.

Your specific softener should come with a manual that instructs you on the perfect level for the salt in your brine tank.  Generally, the tank should be kept half way full and three inches above the water level.  High levels of salt can improve the overall efficiency however should be reduced is the salt sticks to the sides of the unit.  If salt is allowed to build up in the brine tank users should carefully separate the salt to avoid thick bridges from forming. 

It is also important that you put the proper water softener salt into the brine tank.  The manual should explain if your system best operates using granular, tablet, or block salt.  Granular is the most common as it easily dissolves.  On top of different types of salt there are grade variances as well.

  • Water Softener Rock Salt: This is a cheaper source of softener salt and therefore contains more impurities.  These impurities often decrease the efficiency of the softener, dirties the tank, and requires more regular cleaning and maintenance than other salt grades.
  • Water Softener Solar Salt: This option is purer than rock salt.  For most water softeners this salt option is chosen by homeowners
  • Water Softener Evaporated Salt: This option is the highest quality grade of water softener salt that can be purchased.  It is also the most expensive.

If a salt bridge occurs, it is important that it is broken up and not allowed to “build up”.  A solid layer of brine known as a bridge occurs when the salt in the brine tank binds together preventing loose salt on top from mixing with the water below the bridge. This of course prevents the softener from properly functioning.  These bridges can be broken up using a large broom handle and tapping it around the tank several times. If the layers are not easily broken with a long handle a homeowner can pour hot water over the bridge.  If bridges become a common issue in your water treatment system you can try using less softener salt which would allow the salt to drop between refills.  Cleaning out the brine tank also helps.

Another common issue with salt inside of brine tanks is that the salt can become a mushy pile at the base of the tank.  This causes the water to rise around the salt instead of mixing in with it.  A large broom handle can be used to break up the mush mound.  Mush should be scooped out, dissolved in a bucket of hot water, and then poured back into the water softener tank. 

The experts at Reynolds Water Conditioning have a solution to your homes unique water quality needs including: arsenic, bacteria, chlorine, rotten egg smell, fluoride, hard water, iron, lead, acid, tannins, radon, and more.  More information on our water treatment solutions including water softeners and conditioners, water filtration and purification, reverse osmosis drinking water, and iron & odor removal can be found online at

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